Speaking during Alphabet’s annual stockholder meeting today, Eric Schmidt responded to an audience question regarding the reality of self-driving cars. The usually very open executive was a bit more candid in his comments this time, but he still gave us something.
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When asked how close we are to self-driving cars becoming a reality, Schmidt explained that a variety of factors contribute to the progress over Google’s self-driving cars, including regulation, but that the general consensus within the company is that it’s “some years, not decades” away (via The Verge).
It’s very hard to know. The consensus I think within the company is that it’s some years, not decades, but it is very much dependent on regulation. And it also depends on where you are. It’s obviously a great deal easier to do this in areas that, for example, have ample parking.
What’s interesting here, however, is Schmidt’s comment about ample parking. One of the big things Google has touted about its self-driving initiative is that it will actually free up parking space in areas that are generally congested because self-driving cars can park further away and come pick up riders. As The Verge notes, it’s also ironic that Schmidt is saying that now when Google is testing its cars in Mountain View, Austin, Kirkland, and Phoenix, where parking is more ample than in a big city like New York City.
Nevertheless, the morale of the story here (if it wasn’t already clear before) is that Google is serious about its self-driving car project and hopes to work with regulators to make it more of a reality in “years, not decades.”